Karen Mantia confirmed June 16 - a day after reports surfaced - that she will leave her job as superintendent of the Pickerington Local School District Aug. 1 to become superintendent of Lakota Local Schools near Cincinnati.

Karen Mantia confirmed June 16 - a day after reports surfaced - that she will leave her job as superintendent of the Pickerington Local School District Aug. 1 to become superintendent of Lakota Local Schools near Cincinnati.

The next step will be for the board to formally accept her resignation and to develop a plan to hire a replacement.

She has been superintendent in Pickerington since March 2007.

PLSD officials announced June 16 that the Lakota Board of Education had approved hiring Mantia.

Mantia's office also issued a press release stating she would resign from her current post, effective Aug. 1.

"This was a tough decision," Mantia said in a press statement. "I absolutely love the people I work with and the relationships that are here. Throughout my career, my primary focus has been on meeting the needs of the students and staff that I serve. Today, I must put my family first.

"There is so much talent in Pickerington Local Schools that I know I am leaving the district in good hands. Despite the current economic climate, the students and staff of Pickerington are poised to enter the next phase of their achievement."

Mantia's official resignation came two days after a draft of a release announcing her impending departure was leaked to the media. The draft email, which was sent to PLSD Board of Education members, cited personal reasons for her decision to leave Pickerington to lead Lakota, a school in Liberty Township near Cincinnati.

"This places me closer to my family," Mantia said in last Thursday's press statement.

Lee Cole, PLSD director of communications, said on June 16 Mantia is from the Cincinnati area and has family there.

"That's where all of her family is, including her mom," Cole said. "She wasn't looking for a job. It's my understanding she was recruited and she didn't apply for the position."

Lakota school board President Joan Powell confirmed Mantia was sought out for the new position by a company the Lakota Local School District employed to help find a new superintendent.

"She did not initially apply," Powell said. "We employed a search firm and we instructed them to recruit people who would meet our profile. Karen was one of them."

Mantia's selection as Lakota's next superintendent was supported by a unanimous vote. Her annual salary will be $165,000.

At Pickerington, Mantia's annual salary was $144,000.

"Our community was very interested in people not only with academic experience and backgrounds, but also people with very much a financial background," Powell said. "Karen has that experience in cost-benefit analysis, where she's had to analyze programs and their costs and determined which ones must stay and which ones could be cut."

Mantia was out of town on June 16 and district officials said she was not available for comment on June 17. However, the district issued another statement from Mantia to ThisWeek on June 17.

"I wish to answer the rumors so there's no mistake," Mantia stated in the release. "First, my decision was my family. They live south and the need for me to return was very important.

"Coupled with this decision, an opportunity came its way allowing me to explore the possibility of returning to Cincinnati with a new job. It's nothing more than that. The (PLSD) board knew of my situation and were very understanding. There's no big story here but a mom going home."

The June 16 PLSD press release noted that at the time Mantia came to Pickerington the district had fallen into the state academic rating of "continuous improvement." After two years of receiving the highest rating of "excellent with distinction, the district currently has an "excellent" state rating.

However, Mantia will leave at a time of economic uncertainty for a district with an annual budget of more than $90 million.

Voters will be asked on Aug. 2 to pass a 5.5-mill levy, which would generate about $5.95 million annually. It would add $168.44 per $100,000 of valuation to a property owner's tax bill.

On June 13, Mantia outlined a plan to cut $7 million from the district's budget for the 2012-13 school year, if the levy fails. It included the possible elimination of 30 teachers' jobs, all district-funded extracurricular activities and the closure of Heritage Elementary School.

Should the levy not pass, Mantia said, those cuts would be needed in addition to the $13 million in reductions already approved for the 2011-12 school year. The earlier moves resulted in the elimination of 125 jobs, including 82 teaching positions.

PLSD board member Lee Gray said he doesn't think Mantia's departure will impact the levy.

"I don't know why a superintendent leaving or not leaving would affect the levy," Gray said. "Either you need a levy or you don't. It should not affect how people vote. It should still be based on the merits of the levy and whatever side you have to be on."

Mantia, 59, was superintendent of the Piqua school district when she was hired for the Pickerington post. She has spent most of her career working for school districts in the Cincinnati and Dayton suburbs.

Cole said Mantia will continue to work in Pickerington until Aug. 1, and plans to work through the finalization of contract negotiations with the district's teachers' union.

Gray said Mantia will leave the district on good terms.

"(Her resignation) came as a surprise, but I wish Karen well," he said. "We have a lot of good people in Pickerington and she's put a lot of good people in place.

"I'm sure we'll continue without missing a beat."